Michigan’s season opener against defending national champion Alabama is beginning to loom larger and larger. The Wolverines’ ticket allotment is sold out. Students and fans are planning road trips to the game, in Arlington, Texas. The hype has begun.
But for Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges, it’s business as usual around the offices.
“We’re not going down there like it’s a bowl game. We’re going down there like we’re playing in the Big House, first game of the season,” said Borges, who spoke at the annual Mott Takeover radiothon fundraiser. “Alabama is a heck of a football team, but I would be watching the first game of the season no matter who it was.”
Marquee matchup or not, the Wolverines have begun game-planning for the Crimson Tide.
Borges said he has watched a lot of game film on Alabama, but the part of its game that has stood out the most has been the speed on the field. Opponents averaged less than 200 yards per game against the Crimson Tide defense last season.
“They’re fast guys,” Borges said of Alabama. “Coaching down there [Borges was the OC at Auburn from 2004-07], I’m very aware. Plus, they’re very well trained. Their staff, (defensive coordinator) Kirby Smart does a great job and (head coach Nick) Saban is a defensive guy by nature.”
Much like Michigan coach Brady Hoke, Saban started his coaching on the defensive side. For nearly 15 years Saban served as a defensive assistant, defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator at several schools.
“Alabama has always been good on defense, this staff has just made them better,” Borges said. “When I was at Auburn, every year they were top five I think, a couple years they were No. 1 -- that’s them. That’s what you’re dealing with.”
Borges has studied game tape of Alabama’s defense playing against not only dual-threat quarterbacks but also drop-back quarterbacks, noting that the defense doesn’t change but certain tendencies do.
With Alabama’s complexity on defense, it will be a test for quarterback Denard Robinson and the progress he has made over his first year in Borges’ offense.
“The schematic doesn’t change, the awareness of the quarterback does,” Borges said. “In terms of containing him, making sure that they’re fencing in all their blitzes. They’ll get a lot of big plays out of it, because they basically make you beat them. They play aggressively, but they play smart.”